Richard Baxt plans to help banks carve attractive niches for their investment products - familiar territory for a man who has run brokerages for two of the country's leading banks.

Last month, Mr. Baxt joined Bisys Group as an executive vice president in charge of developing investment products and services for bank clients of the Little Falls, N.J.-based company. Bisys' offerings include fund administration, distribution, accounting, and transfer agency services.

Mr. Baxt is better known for his roles as the head of Citibank Investment Services in the 1980s and, since 1994, as head of the retail brokerage and insurance units of First Fidelity Bancorp., which was acquired by First Union Corp. earlier this year.

The experience that's most influenced the way he approaches marketing investment products was his time as a product manager for the consumer goods giant General Foods Corp. - now a part of Philip Morris Cos.' Kraft division.

"That business is extraordinarily competitive, and those that have thrived over the years did it by finding meaningful and differentiating benefits for a product for a particular target market," he said in a telephone interview last Wednesday. "In the consumer packaging business, all you ever talk about is how the consumer will react."

Pitching breakfast cereal and laundry detergent is somewhat simpler than selling investments - there's an emotional element to investing that's not present when people choose what soap to buy, he said. Still, Mr. Baxt hopes to bring a similarly high level of detail to how banks market their proprietary products.

He has joined Bisys at a critical time, as bank mergers take their toll on outsourcing companies and third-party providers.

"Bisys is trying to find out how to expand their existing client relationships beyond what they have already," said Kenneth Kehrer, a Princeton, N.J.-based consultant. "Baxt's role will be to try to find out how to go about it."

Mr. Baxt would not discuss Bisys' plans for new products or services, saying only that his job will be to "find ways for banks to grow their assets as much as possible."

That includes finding alternative distribution for bank proprietary mutual funds and developing attractive wrappers for investments, such as asset allocation products and mutual fund wrap accounts.

"I see a rapid maturation of the bank investment business," Mr. Baxt said. "What everyone is trying to do is find the needs of a particular niche or target market."

He mentioned Charles Schwab & Co.'s OneSource mutual fund market place as an example of how a company can price and package mutual funds in a way that appeals to a broad cross section of consumers.

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